Dr. Marlo Archer says she pretty much hates exercising and dieting, but forces herself to do both. On Jan. 13, the licensed psychologist will complete her second full marathon, adding another medal to her complete collection of P.F. Changs Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and Half Marathon medals. On that day she will blend into the group of tens of thousands of runners conquering the streets of Phoenix, but her story is one that is hard to forget. Archer will run this marathon for "the guy with the horns," her childhood hero, the man who influenced her to run from an unhealthy lifestyle in Milwaukee and start over in Phoenix. Arlen Strehlow died Jan. 13, 2007, at the age of 57. He went into cardiac arrest, after undergoing secret gastric bypass surgery, due to an enlarged heart resulting from obesity. One day after her father passed away, Archer found herself in downtown Phoenix at the start line of the half marathon, despite negative reactions from family members in Milwaukee. "I made a conscious decision to remain in Arizona and complete the race, rather than rushing to Wisconsin, where obesity had taken my father's life," Archer said. "Although my father was not able to choose life, I am, and I felt very strongly that it was important for me to complete the race despite the news I had just received. It was a very unpopular decision with my family." Archer ran all 13 miles wailing and crying. "I knew the death of a parent would require grieving, and 13 miles of running is a great place to get some of that out," Archer said. "I cried almost the whole time, but when I got done I really felt good and prepared to go home and bury my father." This year Archer will run the full marathon on the anniversary of her father's death, but his death is only one piece of her story. Archer comes from a family accustomed to unhealthy lifestyles. Alcoholism, smoking, drugs and obesity haunt generation after generation, and until 1998 she was following in their footsteps. "Growing up I never knew it was unusual to sit around and smoke with your grandmother at Christmas," Archer said. "Most of us started at 14 or 15. After a while I thought, we are killing ourselves in this family." Archer grew up in an area of Milwaukee that has the most bars per capita. She was overweight and had no concept of how much a person should weigh. In order to be healthy, she said she had to get away. In 1998 she moved to Phoenix and started a new healthy lifestyle. She quit drinking, smoking and caffeine consumption, but gained weight in doing so. She began biking to work in 2001 and was encouraged by a friend to do a 5K shortly after. She ran her first half marathon in 2004. "After that I started to put the weight back on," she said. "I realized that my familiar substance abuse turned into over-eating for me." Archer got help and started taking anti-depressants. This enabled her to get back in the swing of things and she completed her first full marathon in 2005. Now, with a bobble head of her dad to greet her each morning as she bikes into her office, Archer continues to fight for a healthy lifestyle and plans to finish this year's Rock 'n' Roll marathon in four hours and 59 minutes. "I really loved my father," Archer said. "He was my hero as a young girl, but as a woman I realize I can't have him as my hero anymore." To see Archer's marathon all-star profile, visit www.rnraz.com/marathon_allstars/marathon_all_stars_marcher.html. Corinne Frayer can be reached at (480) 898-7917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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